Here in the lake area, rowing might not be the first sport that comes to mind for water lovers. Nor is Long Lake the first lake that comes to mind. The Long Lake Rowing Crew is trying to change all that.
Launched in January 2014, the Long Lake Rowing Crew had an impressive first season on the competitive rowing circuit. More importantly, the club is bringing attention to the sport and introducing it to a new crowd.
A group of parents led by Amy Johnson, a former collegiate rower at the University of New Hampshire, decided to start the club to give their kids a place to row in the Long Lake area. The parents formed a board of directors and started a grassroots effort to get the club off the ground.
They brought in Nicholas Miller, an experienced rower from Ohio, to serve as head coach. His background working with rowers both young and old was especially valuable as the club features several club levels: juniors (under 18), college (during the summer) and masters (for adults).
The club also offers classes for first-time rowers of any age, and caters to athletes of any level. “We can take both ends of the spectrum,” Johnson says. “If you want to take it to a competitive level we can do that, and if you just want to take a little paddle around Long Lake, that’s great too.”
“It’s nice for people who are looking for something new or an alternative to the sports they already know,” Miller says. “We make it a safe place to come be part of something different.”
In its first season, the Long Lake Rowing Crew had about 15 adults, many of whom had rowed in college but hadn’t kept up with the sport, and 40 juniors. The juniors also had the opportunity to compete in regattas (a series of boat races).
The competitive season last year started in mid-May with the regional junior championships in Cincinnati. Because of the late onset of 2014’s spring, the team had only been on the water for a little more than a week, but still ended up with four boats in the finals. “It proved no matter how young or inexperienced we were, we could still compete,” Miller says. “It was a really bolstering experience for the kids.”
Throughout the year, the team took part in smaller regattas around the state and in Canada. They competed in Duluth, Thunder Bay and Kenora, Ontario. Throughout the season, several rowers took home medals, including Olivia Zoner, a senior at Orono High School who will be rowing at the University of Minnesota this fall.
Zoner is a perfect representation of what the rowing club can do for new athletes. She joined the club as a sophomore because her parents strongly encourage their kids to take part in sports through 10th grade. She had been playing softball, but grew tired of it and wanted to try something new, so she tried out rowing. What she planned as a one-year commitment turned into a lifetime love.
“By the end of my sophomore year I realized how much I love the sport and the people,” Zoner says. Now she has a scholarship at the University of Minnesota. “It’s not something you don’t have to work for,” she says. “You have to make sure you stay healthy and have to really want to be there.”
Whether you’re a high school student looking for an avenue to college rowing, or an adult looking for a fun new way to stay in shape, Long Lake Rowing Club makes a point to offer programs for everyone. All you have to do is hop in a boat and give it a try.
To learn more about the Long Lake Rowing Club, visit their website here.